Starting from the idea of providing a fun learning platform for their younger siblings during the pandemic, Rifa Rihhadatul’Aisy Setiadin (21) and Saliimah Abdiilah Husna (21) established Rumah Belajar Gartala, a learning house in the Sarijadi area, Bandung City, West Java.
The two founders of Rumah Belajar Gartala are active students in Bandung. Salimah is studying Informatics Engineering at Politeknik TEDC, while Rifa is studying PGSD majoring at Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia. They are childhood friends who had a similar vision in advancing education in Indonesia. Stemming from an anxiety about their unproductive siblings during the pandemic, it prompted both to provide an interesting learning platform for their younger siblings. Then, their siblings’ playmates who live in the same area were also involved in enlivening the class. Until then, the excitement of these students in learning attracted the attention of other school dropouts who happened to be walking by the Rumah Belajar Gartala.
There was a time when Salimah had to move to a different house. This is a fortunate coincidence for Rumah Belajar Gartala. Salimah and Rifa were allowed to use the former lease for free in 2021. However, the following year they had to pay the rent. After a discussion with the landlord, he appreciated the fighting spirit of the two and the potential of the Rumah Belajar Gartala, which led to him allowing them to pay the rent according to their capability.
This kindness was also passed on by Rifa and Salilmah as they do not charge any fees for the education they provide. They rely on donations and their pocket money to meet the needs of the community.
Rumah Belajar Gartala is now a learning community for children in the surrounding area. Children get help in the daily. The students who study here are not only the 10 children around the area, but also an additional 15 children from scavenger families living not far away. They study at Rumah Belajar Gartala because most of them did not get a proper education; some dropped out of school and while some did go to school, their learning ability is low. However, they all have a fiery passion for learning.
Rumah Belajar Gartala provides classes every Saturday and Sunday. The teacher divides each meeting into two sessions. The first session from 10:00 to 12:00 WIB is for children who have dropped out of school. During the session, they will learn to read and write. Then the second session starting at 13:00 to 15:00 WIB is intended for school children who want to consult about their homework and get guidance to understand school material.
Taken from Sanskrit, Gartala is an acronym of three words: Gauri which means a peaceful life, Arunika which means a ray of light from the morning sun, and Kartala which means Illuminator. “As the name implies, we want the existence of this learning house to be a forum for the realization of a creative, innovative, and inclusive teaching and learning process for all young Indonesians,” said Saliimah.
The number of students who joined made Rifa and Saliimah even more enthusiastic about contributing. They actively shared their activities through social media until numerous other students from various regions such as Jakarta, Pangandaran, Bekasi, Karawang, and Bandung came to be volunteers at the Rumah Belajar Gartala.
Recently, Rumah Belajar Gartala received a visit from Forest Interactive Indonesia, a technology company headquartered in Malaysia with branch offices in Jakarta and Bandung. Along with the celebration of the International Day of Education, volunteers from Forest Interactive employees also taught and played with the students of the Rumah Belajar Gartala. One of them is introducing digital devices in the field of telecommunication technology to children.
Shiddiq Arrasyid (32), one of the volunteers who also works as an assistant to the Creative Manager, said he was happy to be able to interact and teach children. “This activity is very good, especially for our creative team, to be able to take a break from work routines for a while. For me, meeting the children as well as Rifa and Salimah made me even more convinced of the importance of inclusive education for all,” said Shiddiq.
In line with Shiddiq’s statement, Rifa also believes that the volunteers’ visit to Rumah Belajar Gartala is solely to provide access to inclusive education for all. “We are united by a common vision. If our contribution can help a little in breaking the chain of poverty with education, then we will do it,” concluded Rifa.
Teks dan foto: Siti Mahdaria